It’s May

It’s May. It’s May. The lusty month of May
That lovely month when everyone goes blissfully astray…

from Camelot, Lerner and Loewe

Happy May! I don’t know about the rest of you, but here in Virginia we finally have our beautiful May when the cherry blossoms flutter to the ground while the dogwood and azalea bloom. The trees have those bright green new leaves and the grass is thick.

No wonder May Day festivities are common in lots of places.

I’m revisiting an old blog posting of mine about May Day festivities in the UK. Here it is, slightly altered for today.

May Day festivities in the UK have their roots in the spring fertility festivals of the Celts and Anglo Saxons. And today villages and towns still celebrate with May Poles, May Queens, and Morris dancing.

May Day celebrations in the Regency were less popular, but festivals in some towns and villages continued to celebrate Spring and the beginning of Summer.

Here’s a blog on All Things Georgian about May Day in Georgian times.

May Day is also called Garland Day in some places, where children make garlands and use them to decorate various things and march in parades.

Bonfires are often a part of May Day celebrations. Edinburgh marks May Day with the Beltane Fire Festival including dancing and fire displays.

Other celebrations include jumping into water. At the University of St. Andrews, students run naked into the North Sea. In Oxford Magdalen College students leap from Magdalen Bridge into the River Cherwell.

Unfortunately we are a few days to late for another tradition. We ladies should have rushed out to our gardens on May Day and washed our faces with the morning dew. Folklore says that May dew has magical properties and will give you a beautiful complexion all year round.

Oh, darn!

Happy May, everyone!

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Appreciation, or How Princess Charlotte Saved My Life

If this were Regency times, I wouldn’t be putting my thoughts into writing today. Given the medical misfortunes I’ve suffered recently, I would be dead. Sobering, right? Let me tell you, right now my appreciation for a certain Regency doctor and his contributions to modern medicine is boundless. I’ll get to the part where Princess Charlotte fits in shortly. Bear with me!

Diane’s March 5th post about the Brontes and the ways disease decimated their family was a vivid reminder of how far modern medicine has come in the understanding, prevention and treatment of diseases. I am thanking God and the stars right now for the similar advancement in medical tools and techniques, and understanding of the human body. In particular (and also most appropriately in this year of 2018), I am grateful for Dr. James Blundell, who was so horrified by the frequent deaths of women from bleeding after childbirth that he managed to re-open the medical world to studying the possibilities of blood transfusions.

To really understand what he accomplished we need to briefly look back further. You see, medical researchers in the mid-1600’s had tried to investigate and study the idea of transferring blood to help save lives. Unfortunately, most of their results had been pretty disastrous. This led authorities in France (the Chamber of Deputies), England (the Royal Society of London), and even the Pope (Papal Edict of 1678) to formally prohibit any further experimentation or study on the transfusion of blood.

Fast forward 150 years, and enter our hero, Dr Blundell. Born in 1790, he became a prominent London obstetrician, studying under Sir Astley Cooper, known for his achievements in vascular surgery, and also under his uncle, Dr. John Haighton, focusing on midwifery and physiology. He attended the University of Edinburgh, obtaining his medical degree in 1813. He returned to London to begin his medical practice and was recognized as a lecturer with his uncle on the topics of physiology (1816) and midwifery (1817) at the combined schools of St. Thomas’ and Guy’s Hospital in London.

Post-partum hemorrhage was a common cause of death for women after childbirth and the lack of remedy for it horrified the young obstetrician, sources say. I believe it is no coincidence that Dr Blundell was moved to break the 150-year-old taboo on studying blood transfusion after such a much-loved and very public figure as Princess Charlotte died from post-partum hemorrhaging in November of 1817 while her physicians stood by helplessly.

With his star on the rise, at the age of 27, Blundell had perhaps both more to lose and more potential for success than more established physicians of the period. All in the following year, he performed the first known successful blood transfusion, using a husband as donor for his wife, published an important paper titled “Experiments on the Transfusion of Blood by the Syringe” and was named a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians.

Blundell modestly claimed he investigated the transfusion of blood “with a view of keeping this valuable option before the profession in the hope of adding something to the body of facts.” He performed 10 blood transfusions between 1825 and 1830, with a 50% success rate.

Throughout the Regency period and beyond, Dr Blundell continued to have a major impact on the field of medicine, and not just in the area of blood transfusions. Frustrated by the limited tools he had to work with, he devised new tools and methods, and his research also opened up new areas of study, particularly that of abdominal surgery. He became the sole lecturer on his topics at St. Thomas’ and Guy’s upon his uncle’s death in 1823. His lectures were collected and published in several versions during the 1830’s, culminating with “The Principles and Practices of Obstetricy as at Present Taught by Dr. James Blundell” (1834).

Two years later, however, the doctor had an “irreconcilable” dispute with the administration at Guy’s Hospital and retired from teaching at the age of 46. He did continue his private practice, and was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1838.

The biography of Blundell by Stacy L. Adams at the Healio.com website has this to say about Blundell’s later life: “Often referred to as eccentric, in his later years Blundell had both interesting and unusual sleeping patterns. He rose midday and saw patients in his home in the afternoon hours. After dining he began a round of house calls as late as 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. He carried many books with him, which he read between calls by the interior light affixed to his carriage. Blundell retired in 1847 and moved to a large house in Piccadilly, London, where he lived in relative anonymity. He died on Jan. 15, 1878.”

Would Dr. James Blundell have been inspired and horrified enough to pursue his “forbidden” research in 1818 without the public tragedy of Princess Charlotte’s death? Who can say? I am eternally grateful that he did. When a “simple” surgical procedure I had at the beginning of March went horribly awry, I was able to have five blood transfusions over about as many days until my doctors were finally able to stop my internal bleeding. Without Blundell’s discoveries about many aspects of transfusion (which I’ve not gone into here), doctors who came after him would not have made the discoveries they did, including the typing of blood (c. 1900) or the importance of matching donor/patient blood types, or even the development of blood banks. Do you think Dr. Blundell could ever have imagined his work leading to anything like those?

I do want to give a shout out to all the people who donate blood to blood banks around the country. Are you a blood donor? What do you think about that? You never know when the life you save could be that of someone you know. Someone’s gift of blood saved me –along with all these other historical matters! If you are healthy and able to give blood, I hope each of you reading this post will consider donating the next time a blood drive happens in your area. Think of poor tragic Princess Charlotte and heroic Dr. James Blundell, forging ahead where no one dared to go for 150 years before him. Thank you!

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House Hunting!

She was busily searching through the neighbourhood for a proper situation for her daughter, and, without knowing or considering what their income might be, rejected many as deficient in size and importance.

“Haye Park might do,” said she, “if the Gouldings would quit it — or the great house at Stoke, if the drawing-room were larger; but Ashworth is too far off! I could not bear to have her ten miles from me; and as for Purvis Lodge, the attics are dreadful.”

For the past few months, I’ve been busy selling my current house and looking for a new home, and like Mrs. Bennet in the quote above from Pride and Prejudice, I have been thinking about locations and room sizes. If I were as unrealistic about my means, I might also be dreaming of a stately home in England. Googling around, I found this list of stately homes for sale at the Telegraph: “Buy Your Own Downton Abbey” (I couldn’t find a date for this, but if you’re in the market for a stately home, I guess you could inquire!)

I rather like Mynde Park Estate, in Herefordshire, parts of which date from the 11th to the 18th century. Can’t you just picture coming up this drive in an elegant carriage?

By Roger Cornfoot, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=67645180

Langham Hall, in Norfolk, is also very pretty. And it has an orangery!

By Bob Jones, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14339309

Since I am not, in fact, as unrealistic as Mrs. Bennet, I managed to find a nice house within my budget. Although the wheels are still turning on both house sales, it looks like this will be my new home. Although it does not boast an orangery, it does have a cute porch!

Have you had any interesting experiences house hunting?  What would be your fantasy home?

Elena, hoping to get back to writing soon!

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It’s Been A While So Let’s Catch Up!

Hello there. Carolyn Jewel here. I am cautiously hopeful that I’ll be able to post here  regularly now that my life is less hectic than it has been for the last couple of years. Since it’s been a while, let’s catch up!

My son officially graduates from college at the end of this week (March 23, 2018) and starts a full time job next week. Cue the happy dancing! Oddly, I am finding ways to stress about this.

I’m almost caught up on a long-standing sleep deficit. It’s scary how you can “adjust” to this and then scarier when you realize how you hadn’t really adjusted at all…

I’ve been making friends with Freddie, my sister’s macaw. I’ve written a few posts about this very interesting and rewarding process over at my blog: Making Friends with Freddie

It’s good to be back. I’ve missed being here.

Before I get into the writing-related information, what have you been up to? Let me know in the comments.

Writing

I did manage to publish some historical stories while I was working on keeping my head above water.

In the last quarter of 2017 I put out Surrender to Ruin, Book 3 in my Sinclair Sisters series.

Image is of a super hot Regency era gentleman who looks like he wants you. Right now.
Cover of Surrender to Ruin

The first two books are Lord Ruin, and A Notorious Ruin.

iBooks | Amazon | cJewel Books | Google Play | B&N | Kobo | Smashwords | Print

I also published  The Viscount’s First Kiss, a historical novella in the anthology How To Find a Duke in Ten Days.

 

A Duke is standing to the side with a ducal estate in the background. He looks a but smug, as would I if I were a duke
Cover of How To Find A Duke in Ten Days

You can get the anthology at the links below. My novella will be available as a standalone story sometime next week. The anthology has stories by Grace Burrowes and Shana Galen. Our stories all feature the search for a possibly mythical ancient manuscript.

iBooks | Amazon | Google Play | B&N | Kobo | Print

I also got reversions for Not Wicked Enough and, in a bit of a surprise very recently, Not Proper Enough.

A blonde Regency lady looking a bit sassy. As is proper.
Cover of Not Proper Enough

iBooks | Amazon | cJewel Books | Google Play | B&N | Kobo | Smashwords | Print

This is of interest (I hope) mostly to US and Canadian readers. Berkley Books had North American rights so I have long had both books out everywhere else. Now all the versions are the same.

In case anyone made it all the way down here, THANKS!

What have YOU been up to? Let me know in the comments.

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My blue and white collection

Lately, I’ve been downsizing, but as well as donating things, I’ve been replacing a few of them with pieces that I like better. This weekend, I found this cute teapot at a local Thrifty Shopper. It’s from Grindley, an English pottery, and is part of the “Scenes After Constable” series.

It’s a nice addition to my growing collection of intentionally mismatched blue-and-white transferware. Since I don’t care about the age and want everything to be in good, usable condition, the vast majority of my pieces are relatively new and inexpensive. I like that because I don’t want to have to worry about it if someone breaks a dish, but I also love that many of my finds are reproductions of patterns from around the Regency era.

Wanting to learn more about transferware, I found the Transferware Collectors’ Club. According to their website, transferware is “the term given to pottery that has had a pattern applied by transferring the print from a copper plate to a specially sized paper and finally to the pottery body.” It was developed in the middle of the 18th century as an alternative to the more expensive hand-painted ware that was also popular at that time. So it could easily have been used by characters in our stories.

The earliest patterns were copies of Chinese blue and white designs, but soon the English potteries began producing other designs including florals, English landscapes, classical scenes, and the like, and have continued to do so. For instance, Enoch Wedgwood came out with a “Liberty Blue” series in 1976. Although most of my collection is of English scenes, I have a few of these, as well as some of the popular “Blue Willow” pattern.

Blue and white is still very popular (and my favorite) but transferware can also be found in red, green, purple, and brown.

Here’s one of my plates that is of Regency interest. It’s one of the “Byron’s Views”, part of the Spode “Blue Room” collection. This design came out in 1833. Mine is a reproduction, of course.  You can learn more about transferware and other types of pottery at the Spode and Wedgwood museum sites.

And here’s where I keep my china and crystal inventory, so I know what I have and what I’m still looking for (cereal and soup bowls, mostly).

What do you enjoy collecting?

Elena

www.elenagreene.com

 

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In the Time of Her Flowers

Documentation! At long last. Every time I give a workshop about historical clothing, I get asked “what did they do when they had their periods”. And to date I’ve always had to say, I’ve never seen any documentation before the 1850s (rags and belts). But that there’s LOTS of theories out there, ranging from “they bleed onto their clothes” to “clouts” and “pessaries”. Well, today twitter has come through again. The lovely Sarah MaClean linked me to an amazing bit of research by Dr. Sara Read (I must now have all her books!!!) where Dr. Read goes into all kinds of depth about records of menstruation. I highly recommend everyone just read the whole thing themselves, cause it’s amazing, but for those who are uninclined, I’m going to hit some of the highlights of “Thy righteousness is but a menstrual clout: sanitary practices and prejudice in early modern England” here.

Dr. Read quotes from everything from Greek Mythology to the Bible to the poetry of the Earl of Rochester. She also covers Galen and my own personal favorite source, Aristotle’s Masterpiece. The best part, however, in my opinion are two smaller bits from the eighteenth century. Firstly, where physician Malcolm Flemyng is quoted as saying “some women have no symptoms to alert them to the start of a period, so that they ‘they scarce have warning enough to provide for decency.’” Which implies that women are doing SOMETHING (most other info indicates “clouts”). At least women of the middle class and upper class, because later there’s an amazing firsthand account from a trial where a working class woman makes it very clear that she’s freely bleeding onto her clothes, with the addition of an apron worn behind between her shift and petticoat to try and keep up appearances:

“In what might prove to be the only account of her menstrual practices by a woman in this period, the normality of bleeding into one’s shift is corroborated. In a notorious case in 1733, Sarah Malcolm was arrested for the murders of three women, one of whom had her neck slashed, the others having been strangled. Malcolm’s employer, John Kerrel, confronted her about the murders and testified:

‘The next Thing I took Notice of was a Bundle lying on the Ground; I asked her what it was, she said it was her Gown. And what’s in it says I. Why Linen, says she, that is not proper for Men to see; and so I did not offer to open it.’

A search of Kerrel’s house revealed that the handle of the “Close-stool” door was covered in blood, and the room itself contained some dirty linen and a silver tankard. Malcolm claimed that the tankard was her own, inherited from her mother, and that it and the door handle had blood on them because she had cut her finger “and as for the Linen, she said, it was not Blood upon it, but a Disorder.”

That this blood was menstrual was borne out by the testimony of a fellow prisoner, Roger Johnson, who claimed to have had orders to search Malcolm. He says that Malcolm asked him not to examine her: ‘she desir’d me to forbear searching under her Coats, because she was not in a Condition; and, to prove that she was menstruating, Malcolm “shew’d me her Shift, upon which I desisted.’

In an extremely important and unusual account of menstruation through a woman’s voice, Malcolm argues in her own defence: ‘Modesty might’ compel a Woman to conceal her own Secrets if Necessity did not oblige her to the contrary; and ’tis Necessity that obliges me to say, that what has been taken for the Blood of the murdered Person is nothing but the free Gift of Nature.

This was all that appeared on my Shift, and it was the same on my Apron, for I wore the Apron under me next to my Shift …. [A]nd Mr.Johnson who searched me in Newgate has sworn that he found my Linen in the like Condition.

If it is supposed that I kill’d her with my Cloaths on, my Apron indeed might be bloody, but how should the Blood come upon my Shift~ If I did it in my Shift, how should my Apron be bloody, or the back part of my Shift~ And whether I did it dress’d or undress’d, why was not the Neck and Sleeves of my Shift bloody as well as the lower Parts.’”

So there we have it. Basically everyone’s speculations are correct: clouts/rags, free-bleeding, there’s even some evidence in there for sponge tampons if you’re curious. For those of you writing US-set books, there’s also this dissertation shared with me by Emma Barry: Menstrual technology in the United States, 1854 to 1921 by Laura Klosterman Kid.

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A Re-Look at the Bronte Sisters

I went looking through old postings of mine for a topic for today and came across this one about the Bronte sisters, first written in 2010. I thought it was worth a second look.

My latest Netflix find (it’s available on Amazon Prime now) is The Bronte Sisters, a documentary about Emily, Charlotte, and Ann. I knew very little of the three sisters except that they all lived at home and their father outlived them. As it turns out, the story of the Bronte sisters is a story of how difficult life could be without modern medicine and sanitation.

Howarth, The village where the sisters grew up in Yorkshire, lacked proper sewers. Its dead were buried up on a hill which contaminated the water supply. This problem was not identified until 1850 and even then was not immediately rectified. Lots of people died as a result.

Disease was a fact of life. The Brontes had six children and all of them contracted scarlet fever at an early age. Mrs. Bronte developed cancer and died a slow and painful death. Her last words were, “Oh, God, my poor children.” Ann, the youngest, was not even two years old when her mother died.

In 1824 when Charlotte was just eight years old, she, her older sisters Marie and Elizabeth and Emily, only six, were sent to the Cowan Bridge school, a cruel and harsh place immortalized by Charlotte in Jane Eyre. A year later there was a typhus epidemic and all the girls became ill. Marie, then age 11, was the first to come home, ultimately succumbing to the illness. Elizabeth soon followed her. Charlotte and Emily survived (think of what we would have missed if they had not!)

Later, when Charlotte was teaching at Mrs. Wooley’s school (a much better place than Cowan Bridge), she arranged for Emily, then age 17, to attend. Emily, a shy and complicated person, was extremely homesick for Haworth. She went into a decline that sounded a lot like clinical depression and went home after three months.

The family’s hopes for good fortune rested on the Brontes’ one brother, Branwell, considered to be the most intelligent, most artistic, most creative. He was sent to London to attend Art school, but instead squandered his tuition money and indulged in alcohol and opium. After this, his life just slid into worse and worse addiction, embarrassing his family with bouts of public drunkeness. He died of tuberculosis at age 31 after a wasted life.

Without Branwell to depend upon, it was up to the girls to make money, but they were not very successful at anything they tried. Ann was able to keep a job as a governess longer than Charlotte’s attempt at that profession, but the young man she fell in love with died of cholera.

Charlotte decided they should set up their own school, but that attempt failed. Desperate, she came upon a set of poems Emily wrote and got the idea to have them published. Each of the sisters contributed poems, but the volume only sold a few copies. After that, Charlotte, Ann, and Emily each wrote novels and sent them to publishers. They each published books in 1847. Charlotte’s Jane Eyre was the runaway success. Emily’s Wuthering Heights was considered unconventional. Ann’s Agnes Grey was based on her life as a governess.

A year later Emily died of tuberculosis, and a year after that Ann died of the same illness, leaving only Charlotte. Charlotte kept writing and in 1854 she married, finally having an opportunity for some security and stability in her life. A year later she died of tuberculosis complicated by typhoid fever and pregnancy.

All I could think of while watching this documentary was how prevalent disease and death must have been in the early to mid-nineteenth century. Can you imagine watching your wife and children dying, one after the other? How very awful!! We don’t usually dwell on the prevalence of disease and death of the Regency in our books. For good reason. It’s depressing!

I also couldn’t help but wonder what Charlotte, Emily, and Ann might have produced if they’d lived longer.

What other diseases can you think of that so easily took lives in the 1800s and not now? Do you think Charlotte and Emily could have topped Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights if they’d lived longer?

Here is another Risky Regency posting about the Brontes and Jane Austen

 

 

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Thoughts and Excuses

I was supposed to put up a new post today, March 2 (I’m the “First Fridays” Risky) but I just couldn’t get one written. I’m facing a medical procedure next week that has me a bit nervous, and I am scrambling to arrange my over-busy life so I can be laid-up for 6 days for the recovery time –which my doctor only mentioned to me on Wednesday! (I work in a one-person office for my day job….) Meanwhile, we haven’t been seeing many comments or indications that our faithful readers are still reading our posts, and we have been discussing making some changes –possibly doing more with our Facebook page and changing what we do here. Maybe this blog needs a medical procedure, too? Mine is supposed to help my blocked circulation, and I can see kind of a parallel here….

If you are here, reading the blog, do you have any thoughts to share with us about changes we might make? If we start posting more short bits on Facebook, would you follow us over there? Or if you aren’t on Facebook, would we be leaving you out? I guess I am wondering, would you miss us?

We’ll certainly keep everyone posted about whatever changes we decide to make. My apologies for not posting an actual article today!!

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Lovejoy

I’m into comfort TV. To me, that includes series with likeable, quirky characters who rub against each other in interesting and funny ways—series like Northern Exposure, Parks & Rec, Grace and Frankie.

My most recent go-to comfort TV is an older comic mystery series called Lovejoy, which I watched on BBC while I was living in the UK. It was also on A&E.

The title character, played by Ian McShane, is a shady antiques dealer who is also a “divvy”—someone who can spot a genuine treasure amongst less valuable items. Lovejoy is the quintessential charming rogue, a bit of a con man but with redeeming characteristics. The series is based on books by John Gash (which I haven’t read) but I’ve read that the books were darker and Lovejoy less likeable.

For much of the series, he works with Lady Jane Felsham (Phyllis Logan), lady of the manor and interior decorator. They are professional partners and dear friends. There’s also an ongoing sexual tension, but they don’t end up together (and shouldn’t). He has other love interests, but it’s even stated at one point that he is more in love with the idea of romance than any one woman.

Here’s a clip of his first meeting with Jane.

The appeal to me and possibly other Regency romance fans is more the British setting, the stately homes, the countryside, the language, and of course, the antiques. Many of the items featured are pre-Victorian so they are things Regency characters might have possessed. I can call it research!

A deeper theme is that of the genuine versus the fake. Lovejoy has a deep appreciation for beauty, history, artistry, and craftsmanship. He may scheme to make money, but it’s not just about the money. He also has that appreciation for people. His affection for Jane is, I think, in part because he recognizes that she is what an aristocrat is supposed to be: cultured and honorable. He also values good-hearted people of any social status. Sometimes he gives up profit in order to help such people. The ones he usually cheats are either shallow and pretentious or coldly materialistic—people who value antiques only for their monetary value or status appeal.

In one of the episodes he says you can’t con an honest person. I interpret this as meaning a person who doesn’t expect a deal that is too good to be true.

I like shopping at shows and stores that feature antiques, collectibles, and secondhand items, but to me, a treasure is a reasonably priced item that will make me happy when I look at or use it. Provenance doesn’t matter to me.

I’ve already blogged about my attraction for Georgian and Regency era inspired furniture. I’ve collected some nice reproductions made in the early 1900’s—elegant and better made than most new furniture is now, and I don’t mind a few signs of wear.

I feel the same way about dishes. I’m downsizing, so I want to get rid of the rarely used “fine china” set that I never really liked that much, and my rather tired everyday stuff. I am replacing it with a growing collection of mismatched, used blue transferware. I had a few pieces already and it’s been a blast to find more. Here’s a picture of my haul from the Madison Bouckville Antique show last August.

Such dishes are often reproductions of designs from the Regency through Victorian eras. They are inexpensive (I’ve been averaging about $3 a piece) and I think they look more interesting mismatched. So I can have friends over and if someone drops a plate, we can just laugh about it and I can have fun hunting down a replacement.

How about you? Do you like shopping for antique and vintage items and what do you look for?

Have you seen Lovejoy? What do you think of the show? What is your comfort TV?

Elena

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Black History Month

I’ve been kind of obsessed with the history of free Africans in Europe ever since discovering the Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Imagine my delight when I found my favorite fencing master lurking in an amazing poster designed for schools (shared with permission of the artist). There’s something for author I know here. Something wonderful and inspirational. Pick any one of these people and do a little research. Their stories are so worth telling. And they give you absolute free rein to include similar characters in your own work.

Want a little more? Check out Abram Petrovich Gannibal. He was the great-grandfather of Puskin, a Russian general, and the godson of Peter the Great. So there’s a black, European nobleman for you.

Want a little more? How about Sara Forbes Bonetta, Queen Victoria’s black goddaughter.

Want something a little meatier? I also discovered that Black London by Gretchen Gerzina is FREE to download. This is the book that inspired the movie Belle (somewhat loosely inspired, but still!). It’s an absolutely perfect book to read for Black History Month.

Posted in History, Isobel Carr, Plot bunnies, Research | 4 Comments